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I am a native speaker of American English, and I have only ever heard this usage of the word revert from one person. This person is not a native English speaker (he is from India), so he may just be mistaken, but I'm curious if anyone else has seen/heard this usage.

He will write an email, bringing up a point for discussion. He will explain the issue, and then end the paragraph with something like Please do analyze and revert on the status.

The best I can tell, he is asking for a response, and not asking for the something to be undone, or changed back to the way it was before (which is the meaning that I associate with the word revert).

Is revert used with different meanings outside the US?

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"This person is not a native English speaker (he is from India), so he may just be mistaken." I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with you on that. India currently has the world's largest English-speaking population; and they can rightly be considered native speakers, as one's native language is the one one grows up speaking, and, really, accent is not always a good indicator of this. –  Jimi Oke Jan 26 '11 at 18:42
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@Jimi: as I understand it (and supported by the stats on Wikipeda) for the vast majority of English-speakers in India, it’s their second language. That’s a huge and important speech community, but comparatively few of them (about 230,000 in 2001) are native speakers. –  PLL Jan 26 '11 at 18:53
    
@PLL: Thanks for the clarification. Halfway into my rejoinder, I realized I was going out on a limb on this one. @pkaeding: Sorry for the unfounded criticism. –  Jimi Oke Jan 26 '11 at 19:15
    
@Jimi No worries, it is certainly worth considering. I work with a lot of people from India (who are either in the US currently, or are in India currently), and I have only heard one person use revert in this way. Or, perhaps I should say, I have only noticed one person use revert in this way. This is what led me to think that it was not a common usage, but he uses it so frequently that I thought it was worth asking about. It turns out it was! :) –  pkaeding Jan 27 '11 at 23:49
    
I actually just did a search on this site for this usage, because I find it incredibly annoying. I have never heard this usage from anyone by Indians, and I am constantly controlling the urge to tell strangers they are using "revert" incorrectly. I'm sure they wouldn't care - they are mostly business people. –  Faheem Mitha Nov 16 '13 at 16:18

7 Answers 7

up vote 27 down vote accepted

Yes and no.

Reading around on the internet, it seems that this was originally just an error (and still is one for most native English speakers), but in some non-native-speaker speech communities it has become established as a common usage. From Paul Brians’ Common Errors in English Usage

The most common meaning of “revert” is “to return to an earlier condition, time, or subject.” When Dr. Jekyll drank the potion he reverted to the brutish behavior of Mr. Hyde. But in South Asia it has become common to use “revert” instead of “reply,” writing when people want you to get back to them about something: “revert to me at this address.” In standard English this would literally mean they are asking you to become them, so it is best to stick with “reply” when dealing with non-South Asian correspondents. Even some South Asians disapprove of this use of “revert.”

Googling eg "please revert to me" or "I will revert to you" (and skipping past the first few pages of results, which are mostly usage/grammar sites) gives lots of examples in this usage in the wild. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to function as an exact synonym for ‘reply’; hardly anybody writes eg “revert to this letter”.

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Interesting. The "revert to" construction may also originate from software testing. 'Regression' is the common engineering term where the device or program has -- usually owing to an oversight -- 'reverted back' to a previous (faulty) state. –  Joseph Weissman Jan 26 '11 at 20:13
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I believe Brians is wrong here, both in asserting that this is wrong, and that it is associated with South Asia. It is common in British legal language (indeed, I have received many letters from solicitors (as we call them), all native British English speakers and well-educated, using "revert" in the sense of "reply"). I believe this comes from an archaic sense of revert meaning [to turn (one's attention) back][1], which was common in the formal English used in business correspondence. [1]: oxforddictionaries.com/definition/revert?view=uk –  psmears Feb 5 '11 at 10:02
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In the UK this usage is only common in legal writing, which is rather conservative compared to other business writing. But the retention of the feature in Indian business writing is consistent with the retention (that I've observed) of other features once common in British business writing, such as using "the same" as a pronoun - for example "Please read my letter and respond to the same." (where current British usage would prefer "it" in place of "the same"). –  psmears Feb 5 '11 at 10:12
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@psmears: Huh, that’s very interesting — yes, legal usage does preserve a lot of otherwise obsolete or idiosyncratic usages! And it would make sense too if the wider South Asian usage is not derived from error, but is similarly preserving an older usage, or else possibly derived from the legal use. Could you give any specific examples of the sort of phrasing you mean, though? I’m having trouble finding examples online — even the OED, which lists a staggering 30 senses of revert (just as a verb), doesn’t seem to mention this usage. –  PLL Feb 5 '11 at 14:15
    
That's really interesting - I wanted to check the OED for usages but don't have access from here (hence not posting as an answer, as I don't have a lot to back up my assertion)! All the usages I have seen have been in letters between solicitors and clients, and along the lines of "Please find out xxx and revert" (towards the closing of the letter), but also "I will check the details and revert" (i.e. meaning "get back to you" rather than specifically "reply" since it is already in a reply!). Unfortunately I don't have access to the letters either to give examples of the exact wording :( –  psmears Feb 5 '11 at 18:35

I am from India.. and here , the word "revert" is used interchangeably with "reply". Like you say.. your indian colleague means that wants a status update.

I have experienced a similar situation when a european colleague misunderstands the statement : " we shall revert with the status" as.. "undoing a change made previously" and there was a lot of confusion because of that....

I guess we just have to be careful using our words depending on our audience...

On the other hand.. " reply" should be the correct word to use

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AFAIK "revert" not an Indianism, but an (awful, ugly) businessism. –  ShreevatsaR Jan 26 '11 at 18:16
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Shreevatsa : I guess so.. but i have noticed that the usage is mainly in India. I have not come across the usage in the e-mail from America/ Europe/ Oceania –  Dharu Krish Jan 26 '11 at 18:20
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@ShreevatsaR: is it perhaps an Indian-businessism (or business-Indianism)? It does very much have the ring of a businessism, but I’ve never heard it in UK/US/Canadian business-speak, and almost all the examples I can find online are from southern- or southeast-Asian writers. –  PLL Jan 26 '11 at 18:21
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@PLL: Oh well… after reading your answer, I guess you're right, and I'm just one of the instances of "Even some South Asians disapprove of this use of 'revert.'". Except that "disapprove" is too mild. :p –  ShreevatsaR Jan 26 '11 at 18:25
    
This usage is also (unfortunately) very common in Singapore –  Mawg Apr 21 at 4:09

This usage of "revert", as "reply", is heard frequently in Singapore and Malaysia. (I lived in Singapore for 3.5 years). Singapore officially recognizes it as being an incorrect usage of the word. A Singapore government sponsored campaign Speak Good English (goodenglish.org.sg), specifically addresses the word "revert".

In my local library there, for a time they had a series of these Speak Good English posters, each poster dealing with a specific "Singlish" issue. I once saw one for Revert, something like: "Say 'please reply to my email as soon as possible' instead of 'please revert back soonest'"

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I work a lot with professional people from Trinidad & Tobago, where a large portion of the population is Indian. There, everyone uses "I will revert to you on this" meaning "I will reply to you on this". Have to say, it bugs the heck out of me, but one could argue that if an incorrect usage of the language is used frequently, eventually it will become correct usage. Perhaps we are already there. Yuk.

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I guess he uses to revert meaning to return [a reply].
So far, I have never heard revert used with that meaning.

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My thought exactly. –  Lazarus Aug 2 '11 at 13:24

This article backs up most of the other responses here. Most English dictionaries do not consider revert to be a synonym of reply, but this usage is gaining popularity, especially in India and South East Asia.

Although some language sticklers may consider this usage to be improper, the rising popularity suggests that it is not right to consider it a mistake.

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The real point that the whole discussion seems to have missed may become clear from this example.

"Thank you for your email. Presently, I am away from my desk. I will revert as soon as I return."

The person who writes this is not promising to reply, in the sense he will come up with a useful response, only that he will get back to the subject.

When someone says "Please do analyze and revert on the status", the revert is a perfectly grammatical and even lexical, usage, though it may be esoteric to the American ear! He means to say please get back to the subject after you have studied it and thought up a useful response.

I am afraid he did not mean reply or response by revert at all. [think: "aw'rite! let me read it first - i'll get back to you on this later"]

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Can I expect a comment with the down vote? –  Kris Dec 20 '11 at 7:05

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